Teen suicide is a serious problem for families and youth. Taking one’s own life is the third leading cause of death for children, adolescents and young adults between ages 10 and 24, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many teens consider and attempt suicide each year, even though they do not die. Teens who are depressed or have other mental disorders are more likely to attempt suicide. It’s important for parents and other family members, peers and people who work with teens to recognize the signs of suicide and make sure that teens get help from psychologists and mental health professionals who specialize in teen suicide prevention.
What are signs your teen might be considering suicide?
Some teens are at higher risk for suicide, especially if they are depressed or use alcohol or drugs. Family history of suicide can increase risk as well. Teens who have experienced a recent stress or loss in their life might have trouble coping.
Not every child who has an increased risk of suicide follows through. Having access to methods to commit suicide, such as firearms or drugs, increases risk more. The best prevention for suicide is to recognize warning signs and to seek help for your teen right away. Warning signs include:
- Talking about wanting to die or committing suicide
- Mentioning feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness or having no reason to live
- Searching online, around your home or through friends for ways to commit suicide
- Talking or writing about death more than normally
- Expressing raging anger or wild mood swings
- Behaving recklessly
- Changing sleep patterns drastically
- Withdrawing from others
Parents, siblings, friends and favorite teachers or extended family members can help best by listening and keeping communication open and supportive. You should not discount the feelings your teen expresses, but take his warnings seriously. If your teen feels this desperate or depressed, it is from a combination of factors and not a reflection on your parenting.
What to Expect
Psychiatrists, psychologists and suicide prevention teams are specially trained to help your teen learn to cope with the emotions and stressors that can lead to thoughts of hopelessness or suicide. If your teen is in crisis or has other physical or mental health issues that concern the psychiatrist, your teen might be treated as an inpatient. Others meet weekly or more often with a psychologist.
Of course, if you recognize that your teen is in a crisis and could harm others or act on talk of suicide, don’t hesitate to bring your child directly to an emergency department. The hospital might keep your teen for a short time until the crisis passes.
If you catch warning signs or risk factors early, you can enroll your teen in a suicide prevention program. Our program offers group therapy, individual therapy and parent and family therapy. Your teen’s participation in the program will depend on her individual needs.
It’s important to listen to your teen and express your love and support. If you think your teen needs help, encourage your child by reminding him that teen suicide prevention programs are designed especially for people his age.
- National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide in America: FAQs
- National Institute of Mental Health: Suicide, a Major, Preventable Mental Health Problem
- Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide: For Teens
- National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: Get Help
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Suicide Prevention